People always say that the first year of dental school will be hard. I was told I wouldn’t have time to do anything else other than studying for quizzes and exams. It wasn’t something I wanted to hear since I love extracurricular and volunteer opportunities. The one that stood out the most to me was the Sgt. Clint Ferrin Memorial Veteran’s Dental Clinic. I grew up in a military family. My father, brother, husband and brother-in-law were or are still serving. Although I have never lived anywhere for more than 4 years, I’m grateful for what the military has given me. Being in a military family comes with many privileges – the ability to shop tax-free at the Exchange, free gym memberships, various opportunities for college scholarships, chances to travel and live all around the world, and many more. My family members have put their lives at risk so I can enjoy all of these things.
When I heard about the Ferrin Clinic, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Not only was it personally satisfying, but I was able to provide deserving veterans with dental treatment. I have been a part of the Ferrin Clinic Committee since the first semester of my first year in dental school. I advanced to the clinic coordinator’s assistant position during second year. Now, I currently serve as the clinic coordinator.
The Ferrin Clinic allows first year dental students to get hands-on experience during their first semester of dental school. We take impressions, ask patients their medical/dental history, learn AxiUm (an EHR software we use at UNLV dental school), assist their verticals during more complicated procedures and treatment planning, and learn the clinic protocol. Upper year students have the opportunity to gain additional skills and experience in restorative dentistry and patient care, outside of regular clinic. Most of the patients seen in the Ferrin Clinic are medically compromised, giving students a unique opportunity to gain valuable experience from this endeavor.
The clinic was founded by a UNLV School of Dental Medicine alumnus, John D. Ferrin, DMD, in the honor of his brother, Sgt. Clint D. Ferrin, 82nd Airborne, U.S. Army. Sgt. Sgt. Ferrin was killed in action while serving in Iraq in March of 2004. The clinic provides dental care for qualifying veterans of all U.S. military branches in recognition of their service to defend our great nation. To qualify for free dental care, patients must have income of less than $25,000 per year, have no current dental insurance, be a Nevada resident, have DD214 or VA card and be eligible as a dental treatment training case. The clinic provides an array of services including cleanings, dentures, extractions, crowns, fillings and root canal procedures.
Since it’s a completely student-run clinic, faculty, students and staff donate their time and talents – nearly 2,500 hours per year– to make this program a reality. Each year, the clinic receives some donations to help offset the cost of certain procedures and lab cases. But the majority of the associated costs are absorbed through the school’s clinical operations budget. As with many of our initiatives, we must have dedicated partners who share our commitment and have the power to translate that vision into reality. Of the funds raised or donated to this program, 100% are used for direct patient care with the primary objectives being pain elimination, cavity repair and obtaining, at minimum, the baseline optimal oral health. It is the only clinic of its kind in any American dental school and has received a number of national awards, including the E. “Bud” Tarrson Dental School Student Community Leadership Award from the American Dental Association.
Experience has shown that students involved in community outreach programs are also more likely to make community services a regular part of their professional life. Serving veterans in need in our community is a very important part of the mission and vision of the school. Encouraging community service is engrained in our program at University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Dental Medicine. Programs like the Ferrin Clinic help us live up to our commitment to educate tomorrow’s leading dentists while serving the needs of those in the community who have limited access to oral health care.
Together, we have a unique opportunity to alter the course of oral health care and education in Nevada. We can leave a lasting legacy in the lives of our students, faculty, and communities in need for generations to come. Please contact us if you would like to help our clinic and share in our vision for the future.
For donations, please visit our website at veteransdentistry.org
~Kaylee Wonder and Michelle Farnoush, Las Vegas ’17